U.S. sales of the Toyota Prius hybrid have surpassed the one-million mark, marking a milestone for the vehicle that had once been only an experiment initiated by environmentalists. Sales of the Prius were helped by the high prices of gasoline that now edges towards $4 per gallon.
The Prius, which is equipped with a gasoline engine and an electric motor, boasts a fuel efficiency rating of about 51 mpg in the city and 48 mpg on the highway. The Environmental Protection Agency named the Prius as the most fuel-efficient car in the U.S. (second only to electric vehicles).
In a statement, Bob Carter, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager in the U.S., said that Prius had “paved the way” for the arrival of more hybrids. Toyota started to sell the Prius 11 years ago.
Back then, prices were low and only the seriously environmental-conscious people bought the model.
Then gasoline prices started to rise and the Prius became more popular. Autodata Corp. said that Toyota sold almost 43,000 units in the first quarter of 2011 -- higher than the first quarter of 2010 by 52%.
Toyota sold over 140,000 Priuses in 2010. Last year, global sales of the Prius exceeded 2 million. Toyota also announced that total global hybrid vehicle sales surpassed the 3 million mark sometime in March.
Carter said that Prius has turned into a synonym for the word hybrid. So far, Prius sales make up more than 60% of hybrid passenger car sales.
During the development of the new Prius, Toyota made sure that one of the considerations was to focus on aerodynamic performance. Indeed, it was important to have a vehicle that had a splendid profile but not at the expense of compromising any of its functions. Thus, the design team for instance made sure that the triangle form would still be there.
This is important as this feature is what makes the Prius immediately recognizable. The brand though did make some changes to the angle, pillar position, and overall profile. With the front pillar being extended even more forward, this helped its performance-focusing shape. For its corners, both on the front and the rear, they have been made aerodynamic in addition to being more athletic and sharp.
On the side, one can see the character lines which begin from the front and slowly go up towards the rear. These lines help define better the geometric shape of the Prius. Looking at it from the rear, the treads are clearly wider and are able to deliver a more rooted and solid stance. In terms of dimensions, the new version is longer by 0.6 inches and this partly due to the cowl in the front being made more forward.
However, the wheelbase remains to be of the same length. While the height is the same as that of the model it will be replacing, the profile of the roof is changed slightly as the top is closer to the rear by 3.9 inches.
As a result, it is able to help highlight the wedge shape. Further, the aerodynamics is enhanced with the headroom in the rear being improved as well. One interesting thing about the new Prius is that according to Toyota, the number of testing hours this model had in the wind tunnel is the highest for any product to come from the brand.
No wonder that it has the cleanest aerodynamic profile for a mass-produced car. By placing attention on how the body and wheels are shaped, the wheelhouse liner, and even the underfloor, it made it possible for the design team to lower the coefficient of drag from 0.26 to 0.25 in the new model. Even the amount of air that flows under the vehicle was not neglected.
Thus the engineering team made sure to change how the fender liner was shaped. Changes were also done on the underfloor’s front surface. The team even placed a fin at the floor cover in the rear in order to improve the linear stability.